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October 20, 2014 5

Houston: Sweet Macarons from Sweet with my Sweet Momma

By in Desserts, French, Houston, New York, Paris

Both my mom and dad have worked really hard my entire life. I know that’s something we all say about our parents, however my parents worked holidays and weekends. They owned a convenience store that kept them tethered from 7 am to 10 pm every day, weekends and holidays included. It explains how I was never a big fan of Christmas. They have taken a total of 4 days off the last 20 years and it was to attend the high school and college graduations of my brother and me. So I was excited when they finally retired this year. I can finally hang out with them outside of the store and our home! I’ve dreamed of this for so long!

A couple of weekends ago, I was in Houston for Geeky Hooker’s wedding and was preparing to drive back to Austin on a Sunday. I’ve been inviting my parents out every time I’ve come to Houston after they’ve retired but they usually resist me. I have also been planning a return trip to New York City with a few friends for Halloween weekend. One of the food stops I planned on making was to go to Ladurée to eat their macarons (I experienced them in Paris and learned they have storefronts in NYC). Since planning this, I’ve been craving macarons and luckily, I have a favorite spot for macarons in Houston, which is much more accessible than NYC or Paris. I offered to take my mom with me to make a macaron and coffee run. Much to my surprise, she actually accepted my invitation!

One of my biggest joys in life is introducing people to new experiences. My dear mom has never killed time at a coffee shop or eaten macarons. She’s never lounged in public or enjoyed leisurely people watching. I bought some of my favorite flavors from Sweet. Green tea, honey and lavender, earl grey, and coconut. I also bought a couple of new to me flavors, pumpkin and chai tea. We parked ourselves on a bench and nibbled on the dainty pastries and sipped on drinks. I spent hundreds of hours through the years at coffee spots with my friends and they’re some of my happiest moments in life. To have this with my mom for the first time felt like a dream. She giggled and confessed, “I never want to leave!”

That’s when we decided. Every time I’m in Houston, the day I drive back to Austin, I’ll spend a couple of hours with my mom sitting in public and gazing at the world together. Macarons optional.

Sweet Mom

Sweet Macarons
Macarons, $2 each

You can see photos of my very first visit to Sweet back in 2011 here.

Sweet
801 Town & Country Blvd
Ste A120
Houston, TX 77024
(713) 647-9338
http://sweethouston.com

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October 14, 2014 1

Santorini, Greece: Volcano Blue

By in European, Greece, Mediterranean

Volcano Blue
Fira, Santorini, Greece
http://www.volcanoblue.gr

Remember when I told you we met some Canadians in Mykonos, Greece? They had just arrived from Santorini and we were on our way, so they pointed us to Volcano Blue in Fira, Santorini. We stumbled on the restaurant late one night and walked in and made a sunset reservation for the next day.

We started with mussels and then all ordered more mussels for our entrees. I ate my weight in pasta and mussels while I was in Greece. There were a number of decidedly average and bad meals that won’t be mentioned on the blog. This one though was one of my favorite meals. The view couldn’t be topped and the fresh and delectable mussels was moderately priced. The servers were kind and quirky. We caught our server discreetly making a duck noise. When I asked if I heard him correctly, he asked if we wanted to hear what noise rabbits make when they eat.

For dessert, we joked about ordering more mussels but we had the baklava and a chocolate soufflé. The soufflé wasn’t the flaky soufflés I’m used to and was more a dense chocolate cake cooked in a ramekin. The baklava wasn’t the best we’ve had in Greece either. If I could do it again, I’d skip dessert and order more mussels!

The sun was long gone by the time we ordered dessert so I don’t have any photos to share. Instead, please accept another shot of the view.

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October 6, 2014 5

Lunch in Mykonos, Greece: Aperanto Galazio

By in Greece

Mykonos

Ornos Beach, Mykonos, Greece
+30 22890 27991
http://aperantogalaziomykonos.com

Yassou! That’s “hello” in Greek. In September I island-hopped around Greece with MJ and Anita and was blown away by the country’s beauty. The first island we ferried to from Athens was Mykonos, also known as the “party island.” We were there long enough to make friends with three Canadians, eat lunch with our new friends, browse the city center and its darling shops and sunbathe.

Not every restaurant we happened upon blew us away but the first delicious meal I had in Greece was in Mykonos on Ornos Beach at Aperanto Galazio.

Veal Scallops in Truffle

I ordered the pappardelle with veal and truffle. Pasta and truffle oil are two of my favorite things. The veal was tender and I was eating this meal with sand in between my toes, amongst old and new friends, and while overlooking a beach view. Oh, just a lunch in the life…

Our Canadian friends had come from Santorini and we were on our way there. They gave us a recommendation for their favorite dining experience in Santorini. More on that next time!

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August 27, 2014 3

Due Forni

By in Austin, Italian

Due Forni

106 E 6th St
Ste 106
Austin, TX 78701
(512) 391-9300
http://dueforni.com/main/index.html

I had a real bad case of the Mondays this Monday. I was experiencing a lot of angst and was also stressed about preparing for my trip to Greece, which by the way is tomorrow! All I wanted to do was crawl under my work desk, curl into fetal position, and wait till dinner with Amy, Julie, Shelly, and Michelle at Due Forni. The five of us try to meet up every month or so to bond over good food and to catch up on the happenings of each other’s lives. It was just what I needed to get out of my funk.

The server informed us that Due Forni is Italian for “two ovens” which is quite a literal description as they have two ovens to offer two kinds of traditional pizza crusts. The Neapolitan crust pizzas are baked at 900 degrees for 90 seconds, yielding a more pliable texture. The Roman crust pizzas are baked at 500 degrees for 3 minutes, producing a crisp crust. I also learned this Austin restaurant is the second location of Due Forni, the first one is located in Las Vegas.

Due Forni

Due Forni; tomato, mozzarella, house made sausage, bacon, peppers; $16.95

Michelle, Julie, and I each ordered a different pizza and shared. Julie ordered the Due Forni with the Neapolitan crust. It was hearty with a slight kick.

Prosciutto E Rucola

Prosciutto E Rucola; prosciutto, mozzarella, arugula, vincotto; $16.95

Prosciutto and arugula pizzas are my go to orders when I order pizza. I was the only one who ordered the Roman crust which worked very well with this pizza. Though this is my standard order everywhere, I fell in love with the next pizza.

Tartufo

Tartufo; black truffle, parmesan crema, fontina, roasted cremini mushrooms, baked over easy egg; $20.95

Austin’s pizza scene has been flourishing the last year or two which was why I was undecided on whether I’d come to Due Forni on my own accord based on the first two pizzas. But the Tartufo sold me on Due Forni. I’d come back for this pizza. In fact, it was so good, I’m okay with just ordering this every time. Truffle, parmesan crema, and runny egg is quite a decadent trinity!

Double Chocolate Cupcake Bread Pudding

We ended on a sweet note with the double chocolate cupcake bread pudding. It didn’t taste quite like a bread pudding but more like a cast iron brownie, which was still fine by us!

The meal and great conversation were just what I needed on Monday! If I had to cut down this post to just one sentence, it would say, “If you go to Due Forni, order the Tartufo on Neapolitan crust.”

Well, I’m off to eat Greece for the next week!

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August 20, 2014 2

Brunch at Odd Duck

By in American, Austin

Odd Duck
1201 S Lamar Blvd
Austin, TX 78704
(512) 433-6521
oddduckaustin.com

I’m losing count of how many times I’ve been to Odd Duck yet I’ve never been for brunch. I’ve also never had a mediocre experience at Odd Duck, speaking to both their food and their service. My first brunch experience was another testament to their consistently wonderful establishment. We were three not so hungry girls and were stuffed with these five small plates. Also consumed but not pictured, multiple cups of coffee and glasses of peach bellinis.


Bibb lettuce; fried oyster, buttermilk, grilled okra, boiled egg; $10


Quiche; summer squash, goat cheese, leeks, peppers; $7


Kolache; goat cheese, jalapeño jam; $5


Tater Tot Hash; confit of goat, poached egg, brown butter hollandaise; $14


French Toast; zucchini bread, buttermilk peach ice cream; $8

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August 18, 2014 0

Pay it Forward with Daniel Curtis

By in Austin, Food Event

During Memorial Day weekend in 2011, Daniel Curtis slipped while diving into his pool and suffered a spinal injury so serious that it rendered him a quadriplegic. His friends and colleagues at AT&T Education and Conference Center rallied together with the best chefs in Austin and raised money for his medical expenses. He has made great strides in his recovery and since then has hosted a yearly fundraising event aptly named, Pay it Forward with Daniel Curtis, aimed to raise awareness about the spinal cord injury community and benefit Lone Star Paralysis Foundation.

This year, like previous years, some of Austin’s most celebrated chefs came together with Daniel to share their talent with delectable bites. There was also a silent auction and a performance from The Spazmatics. It was quite an uplifting and fun party. I cannot imagine anyone hearing Daniel’s story and what he’s done in the wake of a life-changing accident to continue being a positive force in this world and not be inspired and humbled.

Pay it Forward with Daniel Curtis

Odd Duck’s Baked Brie, Stuffed with Figs and Greek Chili

Play it Forward with Daniel Curtis

Jack Allen’s Shepherd’s Pie

Pay it Forward with Daniel Curtis

Uchi’s Smoked Corn Dashi, Gulf Crab, Papalo

Pay it Forward with Daniel Curtis

Uchiko’s Lemon Cream, Papalow Ice, Local Melon

Pay it Forward with Daniel Curtis

Austin Cake Ball

Pay it Forward with Daniel Curtis
St. Phillip’s Chicken Salad Lettuce Wraps

Pay it Forward with Daniel Curtis
“Clam Chowda” – New Crop Red Potato-Leek Vichyssoise with Black Pepper Crèma, Olive Oil and Marinated Littleneck Clams

Pay it Forward with Daniel Curtis

Carillon’s Chilled Cucumber Avocado Soup with Crab

Pay it Forward with Daniel Curtis
Carillon’s Achiote Glazed Filet of Beef

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August 16, 2014 2

Lunch in the Life: Cenote

By in American, Austin, Coffee shops

1010 E Cesar Chavez St
Austin, TX 78702
(512) 524-1311
http://cenoteaustin.com


Cenote Omelette; tomato, onion, arugula, pesto, capers, goat cheese; $9

I drive by the darling mint colored house turned eatery that is Cenote pretty often and have yet to go in. So last weekend when Anita and I had a meeting scheduled to hammer out the last of our Greece trip bookings, I suggested we meet at Cenote. I chose a light omelette to eat and the cortado to revive me from a very late night (or morning?) out. I tend to indulge with heavy meals when I eat out but the lightness of this breakfast at lunch time was just what I needed.

After we ate, we stayed another hour and finished booking ferries and flights to finalize our Greek island hopping adventure that is in just two weeks, making this lunch quite memorable. We even made friends with our dining neighbors and crashed a first date happening less than two feet from our table.

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August 2, 2014 1

Watermelon Honey Mint Popsicles

By in Desserts, drinks

Popsicles

I’ve been seeing pretty homemade popsicles on my social media feeds and the very day I decided to buy molds to make some of my own, I was gifted a set. How’s that for synchronicity?

I blended watermelon, drizzles of honey, a squeeze of lime, and about 3 leaves of mint and was quite pleased with the results. I used all natural ingredients and the flavor profile is perfect for a hot summer day. My friends and pup have been enjoying these pops today. Be sure to taste the mixture before freezing. You can make these a few days before serving the popsicles and serve the remaining blended mixture as watermelon juice. Don’t forget to garnish your drink with mint leaves to make it feel special!

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July 28, 2014 3

Asheville: Liquid Truffle at French Broad Chocolate Lounge

By in Asheville, Austin, Desserts

Liquid Truffle

10 S Lexington Ave
Asheville, NC 28801
(828) 252-4181
http://frenchbroadchocolates.com

It is a life goal of mine to visit every single state in the US. There are rules. Airports layovers do not count. Straight drive throughs do not count. I have to experience something of note in each state. It has been a slow endeavor of mine but in the last seven months I have knocked off seven states, bringing me officially to the halfway mark!

A couple of weeks ago I flew into Charlotte, North Carolina and immediately drove into South Carolina to spend the night and see a 1,400 year old oak tree. Then I drove back up to North Carolina to attend a wedding. Woke up the next day and drove three hours into Virginia to see a sight and then another four hours to visit Asheville, North Carolina. I could have technically been done with North Carolina with just the wedding but I’ve had my sights on seeing the Biltmore for ages. You can read more about my experience of Biltmore on my personal blog.

I kept hearing about French Broad Chocolate Lounge when I was in Asheville. The line was out the door when I arrived but I’m not one to balk at long lines. (Thanks for the conditioning Hopdoddy, Ramen Tatsuya, and Franklin!) I had just finished eating a big meal but thought I could make room to taste at least one thing. I asked one of the servers what would they recommend to someone who has never been there and might possibly never be back. Without blinking he said the liquid truffle, which I then learned is what they call their drinking chocolate.

Now, I’ve had plenty of drinking chocolates and have had a long time favorite in Houston’s Chocolate Bar. It was such a convenience to have my best cup of drinking chocolate just a three hour drive away from me. I’m so sad to say my best cup experienced is now 1,150 miles or a 17 hour drive away. Damn.

It was smooth, rich, thick, and I had mine flavored with a hint of honey and lavender.

I had already fallen in love with Asheville by the time I drank this decadent cup of chocolate. I smiled to myself as I remembered my opening line to the server. “What do you recommend to someone who hasn’t been here and might never come back?”

I guess the joke is on me.

Move over Chocolate Bar in Houston, French Broad Chocolate Lounge is the new purveyor of the best hot chocolate of my life.

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July 20, 2014 0

Easy Ice Cream Cake

By in Desserts

Happy National Ice Cream Day!

I was just going through my photos and found this photo of an ice cream cake I made for a going away dinner I hosted last week. I forgot to take a photo of the cake before we all dug in with multiple slices each, but this aftermath of a cake still conveys the original essence. I know. It sounds like I’m talking out my bum when I suggest that this cake has essence. Its essence is joy, ease, childhood nostalgia, and celebration. Do you see it now?

ice cream cake

I found the easy recipe for this ice cream cake on Beautiful Mess.

I lined a square baking pan with wax paper for easy transfer. I then lined the bottom with ice cream sandwiches. (For the whole cake, I used 10 ice cream sandwiches). I cut a couple of sandwiches to fit the pan. Then quickly added a layer of ice cream. I chose my current favorite store bought flavor, HEB Creamy Creations, Candy Bar Classic, which ended up being a great complement because the nuts added a salty component to the otherwise very sweet cake. Then I added another layer of ice cream sandwiches on top. I covered the pan and placed it in the freezer as I worked on my top layer.

For the top layer, I melted chocolate and crushed Birthday Oreos. When the topping was prepped, I pulled out the ice cream cake and spread the melted chocolate on top and sprinkled with sprinkles and Oreo crumbs. I covered the cake again and put it in the freezer to set.

I made this the night before dinner and it was one less thing I had to worry about the night of the dinner. The cake was easy to remove from the pan and presented well on white serving plate. It’s just a shame we were too excited to dig into the cake to snap that before photo.

My roommate and I gleefully ate the left overs the next day. I’ll definitely be making this again!

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